It’s Tomorrow. I haven’t forgotten my promise to enthrall us all with sage strategies for staying sane in Realty’s Alternate Reality.
Wait—I don’t remember actually promising anything besides breath-takingness. I’m thinking, at this late hour, that it would be easier to just post a really pretty picture of a mountain, and call it good.
But I won’t. I actually have a list for prospective home sellers. It is a Brace Yourself list…. “What to Expect When You’re Selling.” Full of realism and pith, it could still take your breath away, especially if you hold it. Which I do sometimes…breathlessness has its advantages, as Marilyn Monroe so fetchingly illustrates.
Here’s my bracing list. It isn’t comprehensive, by the way. It just includes the elements that have been the most traumatic and scarring for me personally.
A) There Will Probably Be Strangers In Your Home.
They will not come bearing hostess gifts or potluck dishes. These strangers (statistics bear this out) will be astonishingly more comfortable in your home if you aren’t present…as a matter of fact, most would prefer that you aren’t even on the same block while they open your closets and scrutinize your bathrooms. Not even if you’re parked circumspectly a few houses down, pretending nonchalance.
2) Strangers May Have Opinions About Your Home. Like Your Appalling Lack of a Basement.
What? I thought basements were a dark, dank liability. But let’s not get too personal here.
A good strategy, by the way. Not getting personal. Any evidence of your unique personality in your home might be seen as an encumbrance…not just a figurative mote, but a veritable beam in a potential buyer’s vision of your home as their own. (Note: You remember that if you’re selling your home, you need to be at least marginally ok with someone else making it their own?). You should probably remove pictures of your children being silly and loveable or your grandparents kissing.
Think of it as mote and beam renovation. And while this may make you feel displaced and lonely, you STILL shouldn’t hang around your house during showings in hopes of catching a glimpse of the potential buyers (aka strangers).. Go to the library, and remember your library card so you can actually check out books after languishing there for an hour and a half. Pretend you don’t know strangers are opening closets and scrutinizing bathrooms in your home while you rummage desperately through your purse for the library card that ultimately, you did forget at home in your rush to evacuate.
C) Strangers Will Open Closets and Scrutinize Bathrooms in Your Home. In Case You Missed That Earlier. I’m Not Even Kidding.
This is a scary thought, one that can lead to obsessive compulsiveness (and redundancy) in the seller. Housekeeping tics involving bleach, vinegar, dental tools, and chimp-like sorting and picking. Tics which aren’t really necessary to the sale of a home (I’ve been told, and struggle fruitlessly to believe). But here’s a comforting thought for all sellers: Strangers probably won’t look in your dryer. Most likely. I’m hoping a study is published to confirm this soon. Meanwhile, I have hidden all kinds of liabilities and eyesores in my dryer, stopping just short of concealing the snow shovel in it (a visiting friend advised against it). I still think it might have fit. It had a short handle.
4) There Might Not Be Strangers In Your Home.
Which could be even worse than A, B, and C combined. Because you don’t know until the day ends that no potential buyers will be showing up to scrutinize closets and bathrooms. So you’ll still be going to insane lengths, trying to make your home irreproachably buyable. Scrubbing shower doors with vinegar (to the consternation and disgust of your teenage son).
Picking and sorting lint and dust specks and small children like a chimp (we actually shaved our couch…no joke). Making and re-making beds with hospital corners even though you have no idea what hospital corners are, and forbidding beloved family and friends to eat, for fear of crumbs in the kitchen.
And the day ends; your family looks hollow-eyed, hen pecked, and hungry; your hands look like you’ve contracted leprosy, and no one—not even you—has enjoyed your beautiful, sparkling home that day. You seriously wonder if house selling is soul selling in disguise.
E) A Stranger Might Offer to Buy Your Home
While this is what you’ve been working for, the reality of parting with your home (whether scoured and sparkling, or littered with relaxed crumbs) may be overwhelming, even sad. After all.
Also, an offer is just a beginning to a whole new dimension of Realty’s Alternate Reality. You’re not done yet. Not even.
And I’m out of words again. For now. Stay tuned for thoughts on realtors.
Another Tribute To My Man, In The Cold Dark Month of February…
Yesterday was my husband’s birthday.
He rolled out of bed while it was still dark, showered, put on a flannel shirt I’d ironed for him (a rare occasion, me ironing), ran kids to the bus, fried himself a quick couple of eggs, and drove to the train. Which he has learned to regard with strict respect; last month another commuter at Frank’s stop (deafened by earbuds and unfamiliar with the train’s routine) crossed the tracks a little late and was hit…or rather, battered and thrown by the train. But that’s another story, a sad one. Still it seems relevant. It nuances the fact that my man leaves for work in the dark. That he returns home in the dark after a day’s work. And that between the leaving and the returning, there’s the train…implacable and occasionally deadly. Endless tons of hurtling iron.
We choked on celebrating his birthday. It was the middle of the week; the kids had piano lessons and homework and church activities, and I was gripped by a gasping, wracking cough and a disgusting runny nose. I spent the day in my pj’s clutching Kleenexes (when I drove the kids places, I pretended no one could see me). No hot mama for my man to come home to on his natal day. And since Frank is eyeing carbs with antagonism lately, it would have been unkind to bake a cake for him even if I could manage it. We’re saving the cake experience for the weekend. Which I’ve moved up to tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll dress up, the kids and I will sing, and we’ll go out. Tomorrow we’ll grill the lean-fatted calf and throw confetti.
We do this too often though…defer a celebration for the sake of convenience. I’ve promised and promised myself that one day, even if it’s a cold, dark, February Wednesday….one day, Frank will wake up to a sparkling Hoorah! Hooray! Hello! Happy Birthday! Affection typified by joyous party ephemera. What kind of ephemera I’m not sure of yet. I don’t think confetti would impress him. He doesn’t appreciate chaos. He’d smile at balloons, but then they’d probably get in his way and feel all awkward and unattractive at his feet.
Maybe I’ll jump out of a cake in something nefariously skimpy. I’m pretty sure Frank prefers my legs to balloons…unless my legs BECOME balloons because my wracking cough has turned into something archaic and awful like consumption and I’m bedridden for a year.
Meanwhile, Happy Birthday Beau. I was going to make a dress to wow you in and tomorrow’s cake and also something amazing and carb-less for dinner, but I wrote this blog post for you instead. I’ve loved you all your life, even though we’ve only known each other for a smidge over half of it (we can thank your parents for all those pictures and stories of your past, babe…including the baby oiled teenager posing for the body building competition in a Speedo). I’ll take it all, from the moment you came til long long after you’re gone.
Hello? Hello? Anyone Home?
My daughter (Maurya) told me today that in the very near future, the inconstancy of bloggers will seem so constant as to become a cliche. She is hoping to post on her own blog about it. Sometime. She’s not sure when. But she’s not announcing this publicly; she’s wise enough to avoid the potentially ironic position of breaking a blogging promise herself.
I laughed, wryly. Since I chronically lack the foresight and restraint that my daughter (less than half my age) so wisely practices. With just a little more than three hours left of this week, it looks like posting my promised house tour before week’s end is on the nether side of impossible. What was I thinking? I don’t even have time to ruminate before my deadline. Or write my excuses (which is tempting, because honestly, I documented them particularly well today,…from a perilously teetering cake to a bow tie crisis, and beyond).
But I can at least show you the foyer. And, while I’m at it, the living room (they are intimately connected, as Jane Austen would say… and yes, I’m unabashedly reaching back to Jane for….uh…something. Social proof? Snob appeal turned on its ear? I don’t have time to explore this. Jane is just good company, let’s leave it at that.)
Bon Jour, Y’all
Somewhere (maybe on Oprah?) once upon a time, I caught glimpses of a breathtakingly beautiful home, decorated and lived in by a lovely woman whose wondrous Southern accent fascinated me. I think her home was in New Orleans. Beyond the fact that it was all beautiful and very classy, I don’t remember details anymore. But I do remember a notion. I remember that the woman wanted her entry hall to say (metaphorically of course), “Bon Jour, Y’all” . I loved that. The concept of welcome in design. And I decided I wanted my welcome to be warm, inclusive, beautiful, gracious. I wanted loveliness without pretention. This concept was on my mind when I designed our current home… particularly the foyer. Which is where we welcome people to our home, or where we find welcome ourselves. I feel outlandishly lucky.
As I think about designing a smaller home with a more conservative budget, I am totally comfortable with the idea of a much more diminutive entry. I believe I can relinquish quite a bit of space without compromising the sense of arrival and welcome. I’m intrigued by the challenge.
Yo, Darlings. It’s Gonna Be a Bright, Bright Sunshiny Day
Of all design elements, I think light may be the most important to me. If I had to choose. Which I rather wouldn’t, because really, I want it all, at least snippets of it—Light, space, form, function. Anyway. Light. A light, airy place feels both welcoming and beautiful to me. Particularly if it’s natural light. Which means windows.
In the foyer, I tried to make the doors as window-like as I could. Transoms over the doors, privacy glass in the doors, and especially (the icing on the cake and one of my favorite parts of the house) the round window way up high. The living room’s shares sunlight from tall south and east windows with the foyer. Light reflects off of white trim (inexpensive mdf,, painted by yours truly) and a solid oak floor (not trendy when we bought it; therefore, less expensive. But it has the classic vibe I wanted. We installed it ourselves, saving even more).
It’s Got Soul, Babe
I decorate with my own art and found/rescued treasures partly because I can afford it, and partly because I crave meaningfulness. Homemade, passed down, rescued stuff has a history, a past. It offers connection, a sense of inclusion in something larger than myself. And I love the stories (the fire bitten second hand baby grand deserves an entire post of its own). I paint things I love, often wistfully. Paintings are displayed in frames I’ve either thrifted and refurbished, or Frank has built for me. We (the girls and I) covered pots and jars in a mosaic of broken dishes (this is how I comfort myself when something pretty breaks…use bits of it in mosaics) and agates and seashells that our family collected at the Oregon coast, our favorite vacation spot. The pew is a splurge Frank bought on a whim to surprise me when the kids were little and owning it seemed as far fetched and luxurious as an exotic vacation. We rescued the old desk during those same happy, lean years, refinishing it together. When it was set in place, we sat on the floor in front of it and just looked at it. How pretty it was. How the wood seemed to glow. The sewing machine cabinet was my Grandma’s. She and I actually sewed a dress together with it; a dress I never finished, pinning it shut in the back until my mother kidnapped it and threw it away.
Welcome home, dearly beloveds.
Home For Christmas, Dearly Beloveds, and A Nearly Dead Tangent at Year’s End (Ring Out, Wild Bells)
Well, Merry Christmas! I know it’s late. Actually, I know it’s pretty much over….But that’s ok. Really. In an obscure way, my belated holiday wishes sung in a deserted room might be stylishly edgy, like a minimalist independent movie shot in a coat factory’s janitorial closet. There might be meaning here, in my solitary, almost irrelevant words. Truth. Hope. A narrow beacon of light. Possibly. Probably not though.
And yet, I insist…Merry Christmas! And I hope you (God Bless You, Every One) were all home for Christmas, in the best, warmest, happiest sense of the phrase.
I was home for Christmas. It was nice. I liked it. With all the kids (mostly healthy), and Frank (consistently sweet), and even Mimsy (as long as she was leashed, darn it…at large, she is most untrustworthy) I felt my heart swell at least one and a half sizes larger. But if I were to recount my Christmas tale here, which wouldn’t be unreasonable because after all this is supposed to be a lifestyle blog, it would be long and might sometimes sound whiny. And there would probably be tangents. Like this one (you can skip the next paragraph, if you hate tangents. But then, you’ve probably long since stopped reading my blog if you hate tangents, so…read on, dearly beloveds):
Tangent: Since flu season coincides with the holiday season, we’ve been watching a lot of silly dramas. No high brow janitorial closets for us (seven shades of blond zombified to the couch—or in my case, listening from the kitchen). No. In our flu-ish state, we’ve fallen prey to the almost clever devices of nearly mainstream screenwriters, and are, even now that most of us are feeling better, particularly intrigued by the theme of Almost (or Nearly) Dead. Maurya came up with classifications for the varied elements of the Nearly Dead spectrum, and we are thinking of submitting them to some sort of committee. There’s Mostly Dead as diagnosed by Miracle Max (Princess Bride)—rudimentary and uncomplicated. I think I might have experienced this once or twice, even though I’m hardly fictitious and not as likely to be motivated by True Love or even Revenge so much as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and/or Daydreaming. There’s also Rory Dead (of Dr. Who fame), if you happen to be fictional, invented by a writer with a penchant for unbelievable plot twists, and your name is…well, Rory. When you’re Rory Dead, you simply don’t stay dead for more than a couple of episodes, even though each of your deaths (there will be many) are at least dramatic, if not altogether tragic. Exterminated by a lizard woman with a ray gun? Obliterated by a crack in the universe? Melted to nothingness in the wrong time zone during the London Blitz after guarding the Pandorica for endless centuries? No worries. You’ll be back, sans the typical decomposition most of us would expect after our demise—whether it were our first, or our third. And last, there’s simple, generic TV Dead, a condition also most likely to be experienced by imaginary persons, though America’s Most Wanted would have us believe it is practiced by real mortals with sinister intentions. TV Dead is really about artful deception. It is Faked Death (Sherlock), a lie that sooner or later changes its story and insists it was alive all along, hidden in a secret room or across the street or possibly even in a Parisian cafe while tears were shed at the funeral and loved ones spoke sentimental dirges through the gray days afterward.
Before we leave this tangent, I do have relevant pictures: Maurya and Nora either recuperating from, or actually in the midst of the flu (note Nora’s bowl), or jetlag (note Maurya’s beautiful toes). And to make it germane to the whole Home for Christmas thing… they were home with me. I love them. I relished the sight of their pretty blond heads on the couch and even on my pillow, probable muss notwithstanding. And they are feeling better now.
And so, no Christmas Tale. Not really. Nor will I be posting (this time) lovely pictures of my holiday decorating, telling you in lively and vivacious tones how I made it all look good. Not because I’m great at exercising restraint (if I were, you can bet I’d be making one of those minimalist janitor closet films), but mostly because I never did completely finish decorating, although….I did get a few pictures of some scattered nearly-done vignettes…
In the end, what I loved best, and what I wish to mention here, is that we were all Home for Christmas. Together. We even gathered round our second hand baby grand (the one that lived…or did it die? Mysteriously. In a house fire sometime during the vague years before we found it on Craig’s list), singing Christmas hymns til Ez hyperventilated and we all went to bed. Except for me because I’d procrastinated wrapping.
Holiday Greetings, Dearly Beloveds! If Any Remain (Bon Jour, Remains of the Day). Let The Merry Bells Keep Ringing, Both for the Season, and also
Because I am MOSTLY DONE Making My House Pretty !!
(Mostly Done, as opposed to Miracle Max’s Mostly Dead— a grievous, less animated, almost-but- not-quite hopeless state). At last,
I Can With Unabashed and Ebullient Narcissism Show Off My Life’s Work!
(ok, the work I’ve been up to the last couple of months). Beginning (appropriately) with “The Hall of Days”.
House For Sale, and The Hall of Days
Perhaps you know (because you’ve read past blog posts here, or because we’re acquainted and you’ve seen paint splatter on my person) that my family and I have been sprucing up our place, getting it ready for sale. I just have to say, it’s been hard. And tedious. And slow. Lots of painting (exhausted after construction five years ago, we moved in before we had painted the trim or even some of the rooms). An endless trickle of small repairs and treks to donation centers, a storage unit, and the dump. We even put siding on the little backyard barn, and painted it on a rare warm day.. It feels Mostly Good to be taking “finished” pictures and putting a for sale sign up, at last. Bittersweet. This home is the third we’ve owned and loved. The second we’ve designed and built (my design, with my husband’s cheerful support and help with implementation).
Each home has been more than a shelter…it has been a haven, a refuge, a place where we can be…We. Us. Which is probably why I’m feeling a little sad as I post this. Leaving is part of a good plan. We’ll build another, make more memories… but there are memories here. A profound sense of belonging—not only to each other, but to a place. So I thought I’d begin my little House Reveal (pretty at last) with one of my favorite places in the house.
I call it “The Hall of Days”. A little wordplay. Plus it sounds sort of Lorien-ish.. Mystically romantic. It is the back hall, where you enter from the garage and mudroom to the living spaces beyond, where you find the loo (powder room, or main bathroom, realtors would say), the laundry room, our bedroom. We all pass through The Hall of Days a lot. The walls read sort of like a family photo album, with favorite, defining pictures of all of us taken through days past. Ezra’s first haircut with a real barber. The kids playing in the ocean, or the mud. Nora with bedhead on a sunny Saturday morning. The Hall of Days captures our family’s mood, memories…mission. I love it.
Notes on the Hall of Days design: The colors and mood of this space are inspired by our family’s favorite getaway spot: The Oregon Coast. Beachy white trim (painted mdf, very inexpensive), muted aqua wall color, and swirly curliques. Also the eclectic mix of picture frames. Most of the frames I used in the Hall of Days were thrift finds…usually a dollar or less. A few were found cheap at Ross or TJ Max. I sanded some to give them a vintage, driftwoody look. Some I painted black, some I painted chippy gold. Some I left alone. I hung them somewhat evenly, remembering what I’d learned as a high school annual staffer about even internal margins, and then breaking the rules sometimes for balance or convenience. I love how they all work together. Next time I do this (and I plan on it), I would add another horizontal line…wainscoting (more painted mdf) about three feet up the wall, before I filled the remaining top completely with pictures. Our downstairs ceilings are ten feet high, another whim of mine that I hope to repeat in our next house. In narrow spaces (hallways, bathrooms), high ceilings can make a space feel like an elevator shaft. Horizontal trim helps the space feel, well, a little more horizontal. Or at least whimsically eccentric.